Here’s Our Big Question About the ‘Westworld’ William/Man in Black Theory
The following post contains SPOILERS for Westworld through Season 1 Episode 8.
Last night’s episode of Westworld, “Trace Decay,” featured a lengthy speech from the show’s mysterious Man in Black (Ed Harris) supposedly explaining his origins. He’s a “good guy” who spent his life as a philanthropist and family man. After his wife’s death (an apparent suicide) the Man was so distraught he came to Westworld looking to commit a truly horrible act. And thus this new persona was born.
At least that’s how he told it. If there’s one thing you can trust about Westworld it’s that its characters are rarely trustworthy. Characters who present themselves as humans turn out to be hosts, loyal corporate employees have secret motives, and executives secretly murder the underlings who try to undermine them. In any given Westworld scene, odds are someone onscreen is lying, even if they don’t realize it.
True, false, or somewhere in between, the Man in Black’s “origin” did nothing to dispel the widely discussed theory that the Man in Black is an older version of William (Jimmi Simpson), a young and idealistic visitor to Westworld traveling through the park’s frontier with a self-aware robot named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). The theory posits that the William/Dolores scenes are set in the past, while the Man in Black scenes (along with most of the show’s other subplots) are set in the show’s present, a deception disguised by careful editing and the fact that the Westworld robots never age.
If you believe the William-is-the-Man-in-Black theory, last night’s episode offered a few more potential confirmations, including the scene where the Man in Black recognizes the host that first welcomed William to Westworld way back in Episode 2. (The same host also appeared in Dolores’ flashback, more corroboration that the show exists in multiple timelines.) But, as noted by my boss, Townsquare Media National Managing Editor Nicole Sia, there’s still a big, honking problem with this whole shared identity thing: A mole.
No, I’m not talking about the kind of mole that sneaks information out of a highly advanced robotic theme park. (Westworld has one of those too.) We’re talking facial moles here, like the one that is prominently featured on the left cheek of actor Jimmi Simpson, the man who plays William. It’s very visible in this publicity still from the show.
So William has a mole. The Man in Black? No mole.
Now, is it possible that at some point between the two time periods William decided to get rid of his mole? Absolutely. “Trace Decay” showed off a piece of future tech that can laser-suture a potentially fatal knife wound in seconds. If you can do that, permanently slicing off a mole while leaving no scar is a piece of cake.
But does either William or the Man in Black strike you as the sort of guy who would get cosmetic surgery, particularly on something as minor as a mole? It doesn’t fit either character as they’ve been presented on the show so far. I guess if we’re going to really get in the weeds here we could come up with some alternate explanation that make sense. Maybe William and Dolores’ journey into Westworld’s “Maze” ends up with William getting beaten up or his face injured, and as part of the reconstructive surgery they wind up taking off his mole too.
But that’s going a really long way to go to explain this stuff. If William does turn out to be the Man in Black, and Westworld has some ingenious excuse for his mole’s disappearance, then I’ll tip my hat (either black or white) to them for it. But for now this makes me a little bit more skeptical that this theory, while definitely compelling, is true.